Conlan among College Football HOF inductees

PSU's Shane Conlan (left) snaps a selfie at the Hall of Fame news conference with emcee Bonnie Bernstein and a fellow inductee, ex-TCU tailback LaDainian Tomlinson.
PSU's Shane Conlan (left) snaps a selfie at the Hall of Fame news conference with emcee Bonnie Bernstein and a fellow inductee, ex-TCU tailback LaDainian Tomlinson. (         AP)
Posted: May 24, 2014

Despite being acknowledged as one of the best linebackers in the country in 1986, Shane Conlan never believed that Penn State's national championship that season was his doing. To him, it was the team, different players making big plays, teammates picking up teammates.

Now that he is among the 16 newest inductees into the College Football Hall of Fame, Conlan believes that, in a way, he has picked up his university during the continuing controversy over the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the NCAA's response.

"That's the big thing," Conlan, 50, said Thursday from Irving, Texas, where he attended the announcement of the newest class to enter the Hall. "I thought what happened might delay [Penn State Hall of Fame candidates] for a few more years.

"I feel the NCAA overstepped its bounds and jumped in without having all the facts. It was a rush to judgment. It's not close to being over. But, yeah, it feels good that I can represent the university like this. We were tops for years and we still are."

Conlan, who lives in Sewickley, Pa., became the 17th Penn State player to enter the Hall and the first since Curt Warner in 2009.

Other inductees included former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti, who hired Eagles coach Chip Kelly as offensive coordinator and later was succeeded by Kelly, and UCLA quarterback John Sciarra, 60, who spent six years with the Eagles and played in Super Bowl XV.

Conlan, who played in the NFL for nine seasons with Buffalo and St. Louis, said Penn State was the only scholarship offer he received at any level of college football while he was at Frewsburg (N.Y.) Central High School. He said assistant coach Tom Bradley, acting on a tip from Conlan's high school coach, tracked him down.

"It was a very small school," he said. "Tom went to bat for me, got Coach [Joe] Paterno to OK it, and offered me the next week."

One year after losing a shot at the national championship by falling to Oklahoma in the 1986 Orange Bowl, the Nittany Lions had another chance in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl against Miami. Conlan, a senior, knew the Hurricanes would move the ball but also knew his team would get turnovers.

The Lions wound up intercepting Vinny Testaverde five times, twice by Conlan, and winning, 14-10, their second national championship under Paterno.

"We wouldn't have won without Joe's coaching and his heart," Conlan said. "I can't say enough about him."

As for his team that year, he said: "It was always somebody else making the big plays. I got a lot of the notoriety and accolades, but it was a team effort. The whole Joe Paterno era, that's what he was all about. There were no individuals, only the team."

Bellotti, 63, spent 14 seasons as Oregon's head coach from 1995 through 2008 and set a school record with 116 victories. Kelly came on in 2007 as offensive coordinator and was named Bellotti's successor-in-waiting after the 2008 season. Bellotti became Oregon's athletic director shortly afterward, elevating Kelly.

In a statement released by the Eagles, Kelly said he was "really happy" about the Hall of Fame's honoring Bellotti.

"It's a well-deserved honor," Kelly said. "I really feel like I am indebted to him for giving me a chance to coach Division I football. It was an awesome experience to come from New Hampshire and work for him at Oregon. He's such a great coach and an excellent communicator."


jjuliano@phillynews.com

@joejulesinq

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